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A Weekly Digest Of Sci Fi Wire

 May 6, 2002
 April 29, 2002
 April 22, 2002
 April 15, 2002
 April 8, 2002
 April 1, 2002
 March 25, 2002
 March 18, 2002
 March 11, 2002
 March 4, 2002

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The Staff



Spidey Snares More Than $200M

Spider-Man ensnared the top spot at the box office for a second weekend in a row, spinning enough ticket sales to exceed $200 million in record time, the Hollywood trade papers reported. Spider-Man grossed about $72 million for the three-day period beginning May 10, taking its 10-day haul to $223.6 million, the trades reported.

Spider-Man beat the record of 13 days for a $200 million haul set in 1999 by Star Wars: Episode I—The Phantom Menace. Moreover, no other film has made as much in its second weekend as Spider-Man.

The Scorpion King fell two places to number four, with about $4.4 million in its fourth weekend and a total of about $80.4 million.

Episode II Tickets On Sale

Tickets for Star Wars: Episode II—Attack of the Clones went on sale on May 3, and a group of fans who have been waiting outside the Chinese Theater in Hollywood bought about 300 tickets, the Associated Press reported. The tickets are for the first show at one minute after midnight on May 16, the date of the prequel's release.

The fans in line are raising money for the Starlight Children's Foundation. In order to buy one of the first tickets from the line's organizers, they're asking for a $50 donation to the charity, plus the cost of the ticket, plus at least 60 hours clocked in line, the AP reported.

Meanwhile, the Reuters news service reported that both AOL Moviefone and Fandango have already begun selling tickets to Episode II.

Portman Unhappy On Episode I

Natalie Portman told Premiere magazine that she was miserable shooting Star Wars: Episode I—The Phantom Menace, the Associated Press reported. Portman told the magazine that she cried during filming because, at age 16, she was overwhelmed working 15-hour days and had no one her age on the set to talk to.

By contrast, shooting the upcoming Episode II—Attack of the Clones "was one of the most fun movie experiences" of her life, Portman told Premiere. Co-star Hayden Christensen, who plays Anakin Skywalker, is just two months older than 20-year-old Portman, and she also brought some friends with her to the set. Episode II opens May 16.

Star Wars Galaxies Beta Due

LucasArts and Sony Online Entertainment will begin beta testing on July 15 of Star Wars Galaxies, an upcoming massively multiplayer online role-playing game set in the Star Wars universe. The companies are now accepting applications to be considered for the beta test on the official Web site.

Star Wars Galaxies is being developed by a core development team that includes developers from both Ultima Online and EverQuest. Galaxies takes place during the Galactic Civil War, after the destruction of the first Death Star and the Battle of Yavin.

Buffy Gone After Year Seven?

Nicholas Brendon, who plays Xander on UPN's Buffy the Vampire Slayer, told the Australian Courier Mail newspaper that next year's seventh season of the popular show may well be its last. "It sucks, because with how this year ended, and with what's going to happen next year, it's going to go out on top," Brendon told the newspaper during a visit to a convention in Sydney. Brendon added, "We're having a lot of fun doing it. This last year was my most fun year doing the show. But that's life in showbiz, and I'll just do something else."

Brendon said that contracts for the series' stars expire at the end of next season. In addition, creator Joss Whedon is finding himself stretched thin with commitments to Buffy, an upcoming new series on Fox (Firefly) and Buffy spinoff series Angel on The WB. "Joss always wanted to be attached to it, and as his schedule's becoming thinner, it's harder for him to be a part of the show," Brendon said. "It was his baby, so if he can't be a part of it like he wants to, then it's just not going to run. It's going to be really sad for me—144 episodes, and it's my first job. I went through a lot of changes personally in that time, so it's going to be a teary goodbye." Buffy's sixth-season finale airs on May 14.

Buffy Fans Rock For Charity

Baltimore fans of UPN's Buffy the Vampire Slayer are hosting a charity fund-raising party June 8 that will feature bands from the popular vampire series. The Shelter Shindig, sponsored by The BronzeShelter Web posting board in conjunction with CreepCon, will benefit the WPI Firemen's Fund, organizers announced. The party takes place at 9 p.m. at The Vault, a Baltimore night club.

Featured acts include Common Rotation (fronted by Adam Busch, who plays Warren on Buffy), Velvet Chain and Darling Violetta (which performs the theme music for Buffy spinoff series Angel). Tickets are $20, plus handling, available at the BronzeShelter site.

Giles Will Haunt The BBC

Anthony Stewart Head, who played Giles on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, told SCI FI Wire that his character will be a changed man when he begins his own BBC series in the United Kingdom—once developmental snags are ironed out. "He will be different, because his motivation is different," Head said in an interview from England. "As part of Buffy, he's very much part of Buffy's world. He is an appendage of Buffy, if you like. He is there to help her, to instruct her, to a certain extent to father her, but not overtly. Over here, he's very much alone and very much haunted by his own ghosts, as well as other people's, because it's basically about ghosts." Buffy creator Joss Whedon wants to call the show Ripper, a reference to Giles' secret past, which may or may not be revealed as the show unfolds. The show may also be named The Watcher.

As for when a show of any name can be expected, Head said that depends on how contractual issues are worked out. "Joss is looking at doing a two-hour pilot, although I believe the BBC have actually commissioned a six-part series," Head said. "The difficulty is that I don't think it's been done before, where an American show has then spawned a spinoff this side of the Atlantic. So it creates a number of problems just with contractual and obligational problems with [Buffy production studio] Fox and whatnot, which all have to be ironed out. And it's something that one doesn't want to rush, because we want to get it right. Hopefully, Joss is coming over this summer, and we'll be able to talk more about it."

Another problem is simply Whedon's schedule, Head said. "The main difficulty is that he has to find someone who can run the show over here, and basically to do that, he has to find [another] him, and that's not an easy thing. He would certainly direct one or two of them, but he wouldn't be able to commit too much of his time. Although he adores England, he's needed over there [in America]. Now he's got [the upcoming SF show] Firefly [on the Fox network] going and Buffy still up and running. He's got the [proposed Buffy] cartoon series coming up and Angel. He's got a lot of irons in the fire. I'm not greedy. I'm not going to push him. But we do talk about it, and I think in terms of timing, it would be right if we could do something maybe early next year."

Anderson Bids Scully Goodbye

Gillian Anderson told the Associated Press that she had trouble letting go of Agent Scully and The X-Files, which ends its nine-year run with a two-hour finale episode May 19. "I think on the whole I'm in denial," Anderson told the AP before production wrapped last month. "There was a point last week when I was driving home from work at about 1 o'clock in the morning, and I tried to imagine myself making that trip, imagine it was the last night. Anytime I got even close to a hint of emotion around it I had to push it away. It's so huge. It's such an extraordinary transition to have to weather, I'm trying to push it off for as long as I possibly can."

Anderson, 33, added, "I started out as a kid. I started out as a 24-year-old, pretending I was 29, and then becoming 29, getting into my 30s and having to grow up myself. And the character shifted gradually over time alongside my own maturing process."

In the course of The X-Files, Anderson married, divorced and had a daughter, Piper, now 7, the AP reported. "It was physically, emotionally, psychologically exhausting," she said. "Co-stars would come on, work with us for the 10 days and say, 'Are you out of your mind?' They would be dragging themselves out of their trailer. The other side of it is I'm so grateful. I'm so grateful that [series creator] Chris [Carter] paid attention to me and believed in me as this character."

Marvel Movie Dates Set

In the wake of Spider-Man's blockbuster box-office weekend, Marvel announced tentative release dates for several upcoming movies based on its comic franchises. Spider-Man 2 has been slated for May 7, 2004. Spidey stars Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst will reprise their roles as Spider-Man and girlfriend Mary Jane in the sequel, and filming is scheduled to begin early next year.

X2, the sequel to X-Men, has been slated for a May 2003 release, with production to begin on June 1, Marvel announced. Daredevil, starring Ben Affleck, is currently in production and scheduled for a January 2003 release. Blade 3 is also heading into development. Ang Lee's The Hulk, meanwhile, is aiming at a June 2003 release. And a new version of Marvel's Punisher is eyeing an August 2003 release, the company announced.

Affleck Pumps Up Daredevil

Ben Affleck—who dons Daredevil's red tights in the upcoming movie version of the Marvel Comics franchise—told Cinescape Online that he's no superhero in real life. Affleck told the site that he trained for five weeks to prepare for the role, but he has no illusions about pulling off the bulk of the movie's complex stuntwork.

"They kind of indulge me by letting me do a couple of things, and then they say, 'Let's bring in the world-class gymnast,'" Affleck said. "We know you worked really hard for five weeks, but ... .' And so that's how that goes. What are you going to do? You let the [stuntman] do it, and it looks good, and you kind of stand there on the side and watch him and go, 'Wow, I can really do triple flips!'"

As for playing Daredevil's blind alter ego, Matt Murdock, Affleck said, "It's hard, because is he blind or is he not blind? I don't have eyes all around the back of my head, so I have to perform all these tricks. I got them to give me these contact lenses that actually make me blind, but the problem with that is then I really do walk into tables and stuff, which he wouldn't do, because he's a superhero. So it's a challenge, and we're working on it." As for Daredevil's prospects in light of Spider-Man's record-breaking box-office take this weekend? "There's no money left!" Affleck joked. "Spider-Man has all the money!"

ET To Air Matrix Teasers

Entertainment Tonight will air teaser trailers for both The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions on May 15, the official Web site announced. Filming of the two Matrix sequels is expected to wrap in Sydney this August, and The Matrix Reloaded is due for release in summer 2003. The Matrix Revolutions comes out in November 2003.

ET offered no details about the upcoming trailers. The films reunite Matrix cast members Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss and Hugo Weaving. New cast members include Monica Bellucci and Jada Pinkett-Smith.

Matrix II Images Posted

Time magazine has posted the first images from The Matrix Reloaded, the much-anticipated sequel to The Matrix. The magazine also offered a few details about the first of two sequels and reported that a teaser trailer for Reloaded should hit the Web soon.

Among the spoilery details the magazine reported from the Sydney, Australia, set of Reloaded and the third film, The Matrix Revolutions: Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) will be able to replicate himself; Reloaded takes place in the world of the Matrix, while Revolutions is set in the real world; and viewers will visit the underground city of Zion. Larry and Andy Wachowski return to direct the two sequels. Reloaded comes out in May 2003; Revolutions in either August or November of next year.

Dracula Kingdom Proposed

A descendant of Vlad the Impaler—the historical Romanian nobleman who was the model for Bram Stoker's Dracula—is campaigning to secede his hometown from Germany and have it declared the "Kingdom of Dracula," reported. Ottomar Rudolphe Vlad Dracul Kretzulesco, who styles himself "Count Dracula," has won the support of local officials in Schenkendorf (population 1,200), outside Berlin, to secede in a protest over high German taxes, the news site reported.

"We could change 'I want to suck your blood' to 'I come to collect your tax arrears,'" Kretzulesco told ABCnews. "In the Kingdom of Dracula, you'll find that tax collecting is much less of a pain in the neck. I want a maximum tax of no more than 20 percent."

Kretzulesco is a 61-year-old retired banker and antiques dealer who is famous for turning his home into a beer garden and vampire museum, the site reported.

Potter V Is Late

Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling is months behind in completing the much-anticipated fifth Potter novel, which was originally slated for a July release, the New York Times reported. As a result, Rowling's U.S. publisher, Scholastic, has told shareholders not to expect the volume until sometime before June 2003, the newspaper reported.

Rowling explained to her agent and publishers that writing the next book is proving to be more involved than she initially expected, the Times reported. "Clearly we understand that her readers are eagerly waiting for it, but you can't hurry the creative juices, and we understand that," Judy Corman, a spokeswoman for Scholastic, told the Times. "She is writing. She is working hard on the book. We will be happy when we get it." Once the manuscript is completed, releasing it will take four or five months, the newspaper reported.

Fans Catch Spider-Man Boo-Boos

Sam Raimi's Spider-Man movie is breaking box-office records, but it has also broken a record for continuity errors, at least according to the Movie-Mistakes fan Web site, the Reuters news service reported. Fans reporting in to the site have so far spotted 77 continuity errors, the most flaws identified in an opening weekend, the Web site reported.

The mistakes, catalogued on the Internet site, include disappearing rucksacks, clothes that are dirty one minute and clean the next and smashed windows that self-repair, Reuters reported. Jon Sandys, who runs the Web site, told the British Independent newspaper that the number of mistakes could be a symptom of the movie's popularity, the wire service reported. "It's obviously possible that it's got a higher-than-average number of errors, but huge numbers of people are going to see it, and that makes for lots of pairs of eyes checking every inch of the screen."

Enterprise Aliens Up For Vote

UPN is asking Enterprise fans to vote for their favorite alien episode of the Star Trek series, which will then air on May 22 in the timeslot following the show's first-season cliffhanger finale. Fans will be able to vote in the "Your Favorite Alien" promotion on the network's official Web site, through May 21.

The winner will air at 9 p.m. ET/PT on May 22, following "Shockwave," the season finale, which airs at 8 p.m. ET/PT. Fans will be able to choose from five episodes featuring five different alien races: Suliban, Vulcan, Andorian, Ferengi and Klingon.

Doohan Recuperating, Not In Coma

The Web site disputed rumors that Star Trek star James Doohan was in a coma and near death, reporting instead that Doohan is recuperating at home. "James has been a client of mine for almost 30 years," Steve Stevens, Doohan's agent, told the site. "For an 82-year-old man who spent 13 weeks in bed recuperating from pneumonia, he's doing damn well."

Stevens said that Doohan has been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and diabetes. "He's not ready to do any personal appearances yet, but he is home, and he is doing rehabilitation. ... A lot of the stuff he's going through now are a result of his injuries from World War II," Stevens added.

U.K. SF Writer Cowper Dead

British writer John Middleton Murry, who wrote SF novels under the pseudonym Richard Cowper, died on May 2, a week before his 76th birthday, the British Independent newspaper reported. As Cowper, Murry wrote more than 20 SF books, many dealing with the changes to his beloved United Kingdom during the course of the early 20th century.

Murry's most famous novel was The Twilight of Briareus (1974), in which a catastrophe from the stars causes humanity almost voluntarily to become sterile, the newspaper reported. Murry will also be remembered for three connected novels, The Road to Corlay (1978), A Dream of Kinship (1981) and A Tapestry of Time (1982). Murry was influenced early in his career by H.G. Wells, whom he met as a child.

Comics' Kanigher Dies

Long-time comics writer and editor Robert Kanigher died May 6 of undisclosed causes, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Web site reported. He was 87. Kanigher was a major player in the 1950s/60s Silver Age of superhero comics, helping create the modern Flash and Metal Men. He wrote and/or edited Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash and the Justice Society feature in All-Star Comics. Kanigher will probably be best remembered for creating Sgt. Rock.

Born in 1915, Kanigher worked in comics since the 1940s, when he started with Fox Features Syndicate, writing Blue Beetle and other characters. He soon found his way to All-American, one of the companies that would later merge into the modern DC Comics, and he stayed with the company, in various capacities, almost exclusively though his retirement in the 1980s, the SFWA reported.

Comic Artist Sutton Found Dead

Comic-book artist Tom Sutton was found dead in his Massachusetts apartment on May 1, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Web site reported. He was 65.

Sutton broke into comics in the 1960s and worked for Marvel, Skywald, Charlton and DC Comics, among others, in a career that spanned decades. Sutton worked as a penciller on Star Trek for DC Comics; as an inker for Marvel's Conan the Barbarian; as penciller and inker for Marvel's Planet of the Apes; and as writer, penciller and inker (under the name Sean Todd) for Skywald's Frankenstein.

Cruise Doing War Of The Worlds

Paramount Pictures will partner with Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner's Cruise/Wagner Productions on a new feature-film adaptation of H.G. Wells' classic SF book The War of the Worlds, Variety reported. Cruise and Wagner will produce, and the studio is hoping the former will star in the movie, which is scheduled for production in 2003, the trade paper reported.

First published in 1898, Wells' book tells the story of a Martian invasion of Earth. War of the Worlds was adapted for the radio in a famous Halloween broadcast by Orson Welles in 1938 and for the movies in 1953 in a George Pal production.

Rice's Hour Bewitches NBC

NBC will develop a 12-hour limited series based on Anne Rice's The Witching Hour trilogy of novels, Variety reported. The Wolper Organization and Warner Brothers TV will produce the series, which will likely be budgeted at between $40 million and $50 million and will be aimed at the 2003-04 season, the trade paper reported.

John Wilder (Feast of All Saints) has been signed to adapt Rice's three novels, The Witching Hour, Lasher and Taltos. The Witching Hour tells the story of the Mayfair Witches, a fictional New Orleans family with a supernatural history, the trade paper reported.

NBC may air the trilogy as three four-hour miniseries, possibly in November, February and May sweeps of the 2003-04 season, or air the 12 hours as a weekly series or over the course of one or two weeks, the trade paper reported.

NBC won't formally give a green light to the project until it sees several hours of the script, but it's unlikely the network would acquire the TV rights to the project if it didn't intend to produce it, Variety reported.

Disney Buys Hales' Crusader

Disney and Firm Films have bought Star Wars: Episode II—Attack of the Clones co-writer Jonathan Hales' SF movie pitch Crusader, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Crusader takes place in the future on an alien planet and tells the story of two brothers who battle each other for control of a kingdom, the trade paper reported. Firm Films' Beau Flynn and Tripp Vinson will produce.

Hales, who co-wrote Episode II with director George Lucas, recently received a "story by" credit on The Scorpion King and was a series writer on The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles.

Dark Takes On Legion

Music video director Gregory Dark has signed on to direct Millennium Films' supernatural horror movie Legion, written by first-time writer Peter Schink, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The film is slated to go into production in the fall, the trade paper reported.

Legion is described as Road Warrior with demons and tells the story of a desolate truck stop that serves as the last bastion of humanity after hell spills over onto Earth, the trade paper reported. Avi Lerner, Brad Jenkel, Jim Steele and David Lancaster will produce the project, which will be budgeted at about $15 million, depending on cast.

EA Shakes, Stirs Bond Game

Electronic Arts announced that it is developing James Bond 007: NightFire, a video game set in the Bond universe. NightFire is set for release in late 2002 for the PlayStation 2, Nintendo GameCube and Xbox video-game systems and for the PC, the company announced.

NightFire will feature an original single-player storyline written exclusively for the game and borrowing from the 007 mythology. As Bond, players will travel to the Austrian Alps, outer space and underneath the South Pacific to defeat the criminal mastermind Rafael Drake, the head of an environmental organization who secretly is bent on world domination, the company said.

THQ Strikes Pixar Game Deal

Game publisher THQ announced a deal to produce video games based on Disney/Pixar's upcoming animated movies Finding Nemo, The Incredibles and Cars. THQ struck the deal with Disney Interactive and Pixar Animation Studios, the company said.

Nemo debuts in the summer of 2003; The Incredibles during the holidays of 2004 and Cars a year later.

THQ creates licensed games based on many of Nickelodeon's animated TV shows, Star Wars: Episode II—Attack of the Clones and the Scooby-Doo TV show, among others.

House Of Dead Starts Filming

Cinescape Online reported that video director Uwe Boll has begun shooting House of the Dead, the feature-film version of Sega's popular zombie video game. The film centers on a group of college students who find more than they bargain for when they attend a rave on a remote island, the site reported.

Clint Howard and Jurgen Prochnow star. The next game in the series, House of the Dead 3, comes out for the Xbox gaming system in the fall, the site reported.

Scott, Barnett Win Lammy

Point of Dreams by Melissa Scott and Lisa A. Barnett has won the Lambda Literary Award for science fiction/fantasy, Barnett announced. The Lambda Literary Awards, or Lammys, given out by the Lambda Literary Foundation, honor gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgendered writing in 20 categories.

Scott has won the Lammy for science fiction twice before, for Trouble and Her Friends and Shadow Man. This is the first time Scott and Barnett have won the Lammy for their joint work.

Jolie Will Reprise Lara Croft

Angelina Jolie told the IMDB Web site that she will indeed reprise the role of Lara Croft in the upcoming sequel to Tomb Raider. Jolie added that she wants her character to go underwater in the sequel, and that she also hopes to train with the Cirque du Soleil in preparation for the role.

"I want to be much, much stronger," Jolie told the site. "I would love to train with Cirque du Soleil. Lara Croft should be more athletic and cut. In the beginning of the first movie, we added padding to make me one cup size bigger. Also, I put on about 20 pounds for the role. And then, there were days when I was on my period that I was that much bigger. I'd also like to go underwater in the next movie. I'm just curious about what gadgets can be used underwater—it's like James Bond."

Saint Sinner Filming Starts

The SCI FI Channel announced the start of production on Clive Barker's Saint Sinner, an original two-hour movie from the creator of Hellraiser and Candyman. Saint Sinner stars Gina Ravera (Kiss The Girls), Greg Serano (Legally Blonde), Mary Mara (K-Pax) and Rebecca Harrell (Prancer).

Saint Sinner tells the story of Brother Tomas (Serano), a 19th-century monk whose order has been safeguarding evil objects collected by the church. Tomas unwittingly unleashes demons (Mara, Harrell) imprisoned in one of the objects, who flee into the 21st century, where they inflict unimaginable horrors. Tomas pursues them to present-day Seattle to try to stop them with the help of Rachel Dressler (Ravera).

Doris Egan (Smallville) has adapted Saint Sinner for SCI FI from Barker's original story. Joshua Butler (The Invisible Man) directs. Clive Barker's Saint Sinner will air on SCI FI in October.

Davis Takes On Bully

Director John Davis (Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius) has signed to write and direct Ant Bully, an adaptation of the illustrated children's fantasy book by John Nickle, Variety reported. Universal and Playtone Company partners Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman will produce Ant Bully as a computer-animated film, the trade paper reported. Davis directed and co-wrote Neutron, which was nominated for an Academy Award.

Ant Bully tells the story of a boy who is shrunk to insect size and sentenced to hard labor in an ant colony because he tried to destroy it with a water pistol. He comes to appreciate the selfless nature of the ants and helps them battle wasps, the trade paper reported.

Playtone's Hanks and Goetzman are also producing Polar Express, a live-action/computer-animated adaptation of Chris Van Allsburg's fantasy novel, the trade paper reported.

Playtone is also planning a full computer-animated version of Maurice Sendak's 1963 book Where the Wild Things Are, which Hanks and Goetzman will produce with Sendak's partner, John Carls. Pocahontas co-director Eric Goldberg will helm, with David Reynolds (The Emperor's New Groove) writing the script, Variety reported.

Stowe High On Octane

Madeleine Stowe (Impostor) and Mischa Barton are among the stars to sign on for Octane, a low-budget supernatural thriller that begins shooting June 3 on location in Luxembourg, Variety reported. Stowe will play a woman who suspects that the people who have lured away her teenage daughter (Barton) are not what they seem.

Norman Reedus (Blade II), Bijou Phillips and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers also star in the film, which Marcus Adams will direct, the trade paper reported. The $11.5 million film marks the debut production of Four Horsemen Films, a youth-oriented genre label of U.K. producer Random Harvest.

Troyer Laughs With Goldmember

Verne Troyer, who reprises the role of Mini-Me in the upcoming Austin Powers in Goldmember sequel, told SCI FI Wire that his biggest challenge was "trying to keep up with [star] Mike [Myers]. He improvs all the time, so you have to deal with what he's coming up with on the spur of the moment. That's the big challenge."

Troyer shares scenes with both Myers, who plays multiple roles, and Michael Caine, who plays Powers' father, Nigel. With both Caine and Myers riffing off of each other, Troyer admitted that audiences might see him crack in the film. "[It was tough] just with Mike by himself," Troyer said. "When I get the second one, if you look at me on the side of him, if it's a double shot of both of us, I'm trying to hold back laughter. I'm smirking and not trying to laugh, because you never know what he's going to do."

As a stuntman, Troyer said that he was able to do his own stunts in the film. "You'll see when you see the film," he said. "A lot of hanging, a lot of throwing [me] around and things like that." Goldmember opens July 26.

Freeman Defends Dreamcatcher

Morgan Freeman told SCI FI Wire that his character in Dreamcatcher, the SF movie based on Stephen King's novel, is not an homage to Col. Kurtz from Apocalypse Now, even though the character in the novel was. "You'd have to ask Stephen King if that was an homage to Apocalypse Now, because Stephen King wrote that character," Freeman said. "We don't call him Kurtz at all."

Freeman's character, a military leader hunting aliens, is now called Col. Curtis. But even though Curtis threatens the lives of innocents in his pursuit, the actor does not see him as a villain. "He's a villain chaser," Freeman said. "We're fighting creatures that are attempting to take over the planet, so I would hesitate to label him as a villain if he's been fighting heroically for 45 years."

The three-time Oscar nominee said he prefers playing heroic characters anyway. "There are things that are villainous that I just don't want to do," he said. "They don't get me. I always wanted to be the hero. I grew up wanting to be the hero." Dreamcatcher opens in 2003.

Goldsman To Chronicle Riddick

Oscar-winning writer Akiva Goldsman (A Beautiful Mind) will pen the script for The Chronicles of Riddick, the upcoming sequel to 2000's hit SF movie Pitch Black, the Empire Online Web site reported. The sequel will bring back Vin Diesel in the title role of Richard Riddick, escaped convict and murderer, the site reported.

The Chronicles of Riddick is scheduled to begin production in August.

Inferno Warms Up For Screen

Mike Verboys, vice president of development for Numenorean Films, told SCI FI Wire that the company has bought a pitch for a movie based on Inferno, Top Cow's upcoming supernatural comic series. Numenorean principals Chuck Konzelman and Cary Solomon (Earth vs. the Spider) will "commence writing in a couple of months" as "the pitch has been bought," Verboys said in an interview.

"We're doing Inferno for Warners and [producer] Joel Silver [The Matrix]," Verboys said. "It's The Dirty Dozen goes to hell. The deal is with Top Cow also. We created the comic for Top Cow, which we're now doing as a feature based off the comic."

Like comic-based movies Men in Black and Spider-Man, Inferno promises to be a big-budget, big-effects adaptation as well, Verboys said. "Inferno's huge," he said. "Inferno is Armageddon faced downwards. The gates of hell are opened, and the only people that can shut it are people that are going there. They died. It's The Dirty Dozen, so they have to recruit 12 badasses to go down, close the gates and save the world."

Smallville Finale Is Stormy

Kristin Kreuk, who plays Lana Lang in The WB's Smallville, told fans that the freshman series' season finale will feature a lot of developments, according to a report on the Comics Continuum Web site. "Well, I can tell you that there's going to be a tornado, if you didn't know that already," Kreuk said during an online chat. "That there's going to be stuff going on with Clark's spaceship. And people discovering it, and there's going to be the threat of a lot of people leaving Smallville, because of various reasons."

Kreuk added, "And there's going to be a romance blossoming. And a lot of triangles forming. And it's going to be a lot of action. And a lot of plot twists that people will definitely have to see." Smallville's season finale, "Tempest," airs May 21 and features a performance by rock band Remy Zero, which also performs the series' title song "Save Me."

Spiders Get Leg Up In Freaks

Ellory Elkayem, director of the upcoming giant-spider movie Eight Legged Freaks, told SCI FI Wire that he wanted his marauding arachnids to be biologically accurate. "We really wanted to stay true to the reality of what these things look like, and just simply blow them up," Elkayem said in an interview. "I was excited by the idea of having a lot of different species of spider, rather than just one kind of spider. So we ended up with five or six different kinds of spiders, each with their own special prey-capture abilities. ... These are absolutely real [species of] spiders. You can look all these spiders up, and we stayed pretty true to what they actually do. Trapdoor spiders, orb weavers, jumping spiders, tarantulas."

First-time feature director Elkayem developed the campy SF horror movie based on a short he produced in his native New Zealand. He added that most of the spiders in the film are computer-generated, and stars David Arquette, Kari Wuhrer, Doug E. Doug and Rick Overton found themselves acting mostly to blank space. "What you basically do is shoot plate shots, and there's really not a lot to look at on the day," he said.

Arquette told SCI FI Wire that the movie reminded him of another campy SF film. "There is sort of an element where it's kind of like a Gremlins sort of feeling, where they've taken over, and they kind of have personality," he said. Though the spiders were computer-generated, at least one special effect was very real, Arquette added. "They had a lot of ooze bags. Green goo. Because they sort of wanted to walk this line so it's not like a gory movie. But spiders do get killed all the time. But instead of like showing blood or black stuff, we chose to do this kind of Nickelodeon green goo, or like snotty fluid. ... So there were bags of that. Bags of that that would explode."

"I didn't have to get covered in green goo, because I'm the girl," Wuhrer added with a laugh. Eight Legged Freaks opens July 19.

Willis Takes On Femizons

Matt Verboys, vice president of development at Numenorean Films, told SCI FI Wire that the company's upcoming Femizons movie will be based on an obscure Marvel Comics property. "Femizons is based on a Stan Lee short comic that was in a Marvel compilation book in the early '70s," Verboys said in an interview. "It was a one-shot deal, although I think Captain America fought them somewhere along the way. But they're a blip in the Marvel universe. They're Xenas on their own island. We're going for a more science fiction, big-budget, Stargate kind of feel."

Numenorean is the production company of producer/directors Chuck Konzelman and Cary Solomon (Earth vs. the Spider, The Immortal). "We're writing [Femizons] for Cheyenne [Enterprises], Bruce Willis' company, who has a deal with MGM," Verboys said. "We're going to start writing next week." Will Willis be strapping on the armor and fighting the Femizons himself? "His company is producing it," Verboys said. "We don't know what the deal is as far as his involvement."

Fincher Mulls Proud Remake

David Fincher is in talks to direct a new version of The Reincarnation of Peter Proud, a supernatural film based on the 1975 movie of the same name, Variety reported. Paramount-based Scott Rudin optioned remake rights to the movie last year.

The original film told the story of a college professor who experiences flashbacks from a previous life and is drawn to the town of his wife from another time, the trade paper reported.

As earlier rumored, Fincher (Alien 3) is also on board to direct Paramount's upcoming Mission: Impossible III for producers Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner, Variety reported.

Cinescape Sponsors Saturns

Cinescape magazine said it has licensed the rights to the 28th Annual Saturn Awards and will co-produce the show with the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films on June 10 at the St. Regis Hotel in Los Angeles. Cinescape will also sponsor the 29th and 30th Saturn Awards and retains the right to match any competing offer for three additional years, the magazine announced. The awards will be broadcast on television, with the date and place to be announced later.

The late Donald A. Reed founded the academy as a non-profit organization in 1972, and its mission is to bring honor and recognition to the genres of science fiction, fantasy and horror. Nominees for this year's top Saturn Awards include Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Brotherhood of the Wolf, A.I. Artificial Intelligence and The Others.

This year's awards show will also feature a new award, the Cinescape Genre Face of the Future Award, honoring the male and female star of tomorrow in genre entertainment as selected by Cinescape readers. Female nominees are Amy Acker (Angel), Kristin Kreuk (Smallville), Jolene Blalock (Enterprise), Lexa Doig (Jason X) and Thora Birch (Ghost World). Nominees in the male category are Michael Rosenbaum (Smallville), James Marsters (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Luke Goss (Blade II), Hayden Christensen (Star Wars: Episode II—Attack of the Clones) and Orlando Bloom (The Lord of the Rings).

ID4 II Is In The Works

Producer Dean Devlin told SCI FI Wire that he and partner Roland Emmerich are gearing up to make a sequel to their blockbuster 1996 hit film Independence Day. "Roland and I, we're back to work on doing a sequel to Independence Day," Devlin said in an interview. "I think we finally found a story that we wanted to tell." Devlin and Emmerich wrote and produced the original film, which Emmerich directed. ID4 is the 11th highest-grossing domestic release of all time, with more than $300 million at the North American box office.

Devlin added that he hopes to assemble as many of the original cast members as possible. "I like to think that hit movies are like a cocktail, you know?" he said. "You want to try to get all the ingredients back together again and try to get the same mix. But we'll see. We'll see what we can get back. We'll try to get everyone. We'll just have to see how it plays out." The original film's cast included Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Judd Hirsch and Margaret Colin. As for the sequel's story? "I can't tell you that," Devlin said with a laugh.

"Then there's another science fiction film that Roland and I are working on, called The Hunt," Devlin added. "So hopefully both of those will get started within the next year."

Danes In, Bush Out Of T3

Clare Danes has replaced Sophia Bush in a key female role in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines less than a month after production began on the sequel film, Variety reported. Danes takes over as the romantic interest of John Connor, played by Nick Stahl, in the Jonathan Mostow-directed film, which also stars Arnold Schwarzenegger and newcomer Kristanna Loken as the cyborg villain, the trade paper reported. Filming on the 100-day shoot began April 15.

Mostow reportedly felt that newcomer Bush seemed a bit young for the part. Danes is 23. "This was a difficult decision, because Sophia is a talented and charismatic performer," Mostow told Variety. "However, we feel, after reviewing the dailies, that her appearance and manner play younger than what we wanted for the role. We look forward to working with Sophia on future projects." T3 is aiming at a summer 2003 release by Warner Brothers.

DreamWorks Goes Ape For Monkey

DreamWorks will develop Space Monkey, a computer-animated movie from writer-director Ash Brannon, based on his treatment, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Brannon most recently was co-writer and co-director with John Lasseter on Pixar/Disney's Toy Story 2.

Brannon will develop the project with an eye to directing it. Monkey centers on a team of primates involved in the NASA space program in the 1950s, the trade paper reported.

Tarantino Readies Mort

Quentin Tarantino will executive produce Mort: The Dead Teenager, a fantasy film based on a Marvel Comics series, the Reuters news service reported. Madonna's Maverick Films will co-produce the movie, Reuters reported.

The movie's main character, Mort, is a teenager who dies, descends into the Netherworld and meets Teen Death, the son of the Grim Reaper. Mort convinces Teen Death to return to high school with him so he can win back the girl of his dreams, Reuters reported.

Dominique Swain (Lolita) and Elijah Wood (The Lord of the Rings) are being considered for the lead roles.

Briefly Noted

  • The IGN FilmForce Web site reported a rumor that Warner Brothers is developing a movie based on the DC Comics character The Flash, with Pitch Black star Vin Diesel under consideration for the title role. Director Rob Cohen, producer Neal Moritz and screenwriter Gary Scott Thompson are also linked to the rumored project, the site reported.

  • Disney has acquired the spec script Snow and the Seven, a martial-arts take on the Snow White fairy tale, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Josh Harmon and Scott Elder wrote the script, which is set in late 19th-century China.

  • ABC plans to air a 15-hour Stephen King limited series titled The Hospital next season, Variety reported.

  • Marvel Enterprises, which owns the rights to Spider-Man, has sued Disney's Buena Vista home entertainment unit, saying that Buena Vista used its artwork without permission to promote a Spider-Man cartoon series unrelated to Columbia Pictures' current hit movie, Variety reported. The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan May 8.

  • The Web site reported that the teaser trailer for Die Another Day, the upcoming 20th James Bond movie, will be screened before prints of Star Wars: Episode II—Attack of the Clones.

  • Star Wars: Episode II—Attack of the Clones will screen out of competition at the Cannes Film Festival on May 16, the same day it opens in the United States, Variety reported. The prequel will bow on the festival's second day.

  • Xena: Warrior Princess star Lucy Lawless, 34, gave birth May 7 to a son, Judah Miro Tapert, at her home in New Zealand, TV Guide Online reported. It's the second child for Lawless and her husband, Xena producer Robert G. Tapert, with whom she also has a two-year-old son. Lawless has a 13-year-old daughter from a previous marriage, the site reported.

  • The Web site reported a rumor that Hugh Jackman may play a role in Star Wars: Episode III, at least according to comments from Star Wars producer Rick McCallum.

  • The IGN FilmForce Web site reported a rumor that Stuart Townsend (Queen of the Damned) will join the cast of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, playing Dorian Gray. The site added that the role of Mina Harker will go to either Saffron Burrows or Monica Bellucci.

  • A new trailer has gone up on the Web for Steven Spielberg's upcoming Minority Report, an SF movie based on Philip K. Dick's short story of the same name. Minority Report opens June 21.

  • The IGN FilmForce Web site reported a rumor that Owen Wilson is in talks to take on the lead male role in the upcoming Catwoman movie, opposite star Ashley Judd. Wilson would play Tom Lone, a former Gotham City detective.

  • Marvel movie executive Avi Arad told Chicago Sun-Times columnist Cindy Pearlman that the upcoming Spider-Man sequel could feature Doctor Octopus as Spidey's new nemesis. "We're just starting to write the script, but Doctor Octopus might make a good villain," Arad said. "I can't confirm anything, except that we'll push it to the limits in the sequel. The sequel can't be the next chapter or a retread."

  • The Dark Horizons Web site reported rumors that Tom Cruise, Kevin Spacey and MTV's Osbourne family will make cameo appearances in the upcoming Austin Powers in Goldmember, which opens July 26.

  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer star Sarah Michelle Gellar joins Jack Black to host the MTV Movie Awards, which airs at 9 p.m. ET/PT June 6.

  • A trailer has been posted for the upcoming Powerpuff Girls Movie, based on the Cartoon Network series. The film opens July 3.

  • The IGN FilmForce Web site reported that Shane West (Once and Again) has joined the cast of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, playing Tom Sawyer. The upcoming film is based on Alan Moore's and Kevin O'Neill's comic series of the same name.

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